Back in June 2013, I reported about the existence of an odd little webcomic by Akili, called Stretch. Some time after that the Shogakukan Big Spirits Comic imprint must have picked the comic up. (The website now even says, “Big Comics Spirits Presents”.) In March 2014, I noted that it had been published as a collected volume.
And so as I wandered around the various bookstores in Tokyo, seeing Volume 1 of Stretch (ストレッチ) (also available on JP Kindle) on the shelves was a bit like running into an old acquaintance. “Oh, hey, how you doing? So good to see you again…” ^_^ I picked up Volume 1 to reacquaint myself with Ran and her sempai at school, now roommate, Keiko.
The two women have a casual, almost cheerfully antagonistic relationship. Ran appears to work at a club as a hostess, Keiko in a respectable office a a career woman, but both of them drink too much and bicker in a friendly way. Ran is a fan of stretching, and she has taught Keiko some good basic ones. They stretch in every chapter, and teach us how to do this healthful exercise, as well. Nothing here is beyond the ability of any sedentary chair-sitter.
Each chapter is wrapped around a snippet of their exceptionally average lives. Work, home, friends, food, drink, stretch. There’s hint of relationships outside their own here and their. Ran had, at the very least, a boyfriend, and we are given the merest glimpse of a failed relationship in Keiko’s life as well. Work friends and school friends provide very normal society, which makes this just about the realest manga I have ever read.
There’s a fair amount of service. We get regular underwear shots and crotch shots, but they are presented without eroticism. The women wear underwear that lacks decoration – exercise bras look like exercise bras. They wear sweatpants or pajamas. We’re looking at a crotch covered in a pair of quilted, loose pants and I have to hope that Akili is doing this on purpose to mock the obsession.
There is a Yuri-ish vibe between Ran and Keiko, but it’s mostly because while they like each other, their relationship isn’t formal…or even nice all the time. They grope each other as just another stupid prank among many.
The end of this volume details how the two met in school and how their relationship developed, but not how they became roommates. Volume 2 is now available as well, and I know we’ll get more information about them in this volume. (Please refrain from spoiling if you’ve been reading the webcomics or the scans of same. Thanks.) I’m a big fan of stretching myself (like Ran, as a result of injuries), so I’ll be tuning in again.
Art – 8 Simple, solid, unadorned
Story – 6 The story is presumably the stretching, but the real story is told in the scenes around it
Characters – 8 Human, petty, a bit snarky, I quite like them
Yuri – 1, mostly in our heads in this volume
Service – 4 Perfunctory, maybe even satirical
Overall – 7
It’s a little weird, reading a manga about stretching, but it’s a pretty good manga. And we can all use a little stretch.